Toolbox Tuesday: Expect to hear more about physical restraint.

The Department of Education has announced an initiative focusing on the possible inappropriate use of restraint and seclusion in our schools.  DOE tells us that this initiative will involve Compliance Reviews, Data Collection and Support.  You can expect to hear more from T.E.A. about this.

In the Toolbox Training we offer ten tools that are designed to help you comply with our special education laws while serving dangerous or violent students appropriately.  Physical restraint is not one of the ten tools, but we talk about it and how it should and should not be handled. 

We have a lengthy administrative regulation about restraint, and it’s essential that school officials comply with it. See 19 T.A.C. 89.1053.  The regs limit physical restraint to emergency situations, which are defined as behaviors that pose a threat of “imminent, serious physical harm to the student or others” or “imminent, serious property destruction.”

Remember to document restraint properly and promptly.  Here are your bullet points about documentation:

  • The campus administrator or designee must be notified of the use of restraint on the day it is used.  This does not have to be in writing, but obviously, written documentation is preferred.
  • You must make at least a “good faith effort” to notify the parent of the use of restraint on the same day.  Verbal notice is acceptable.
  • But written notice must be provided to the parent “in the mail or otherwise” within one school day. So if you restrain a student today, you must provide this notice tomorrow. 
  • Documentation of the restraint must be placed in the student’s special education folder “in a timely manner” so that it is available to the ARD Committee when it meets to consider a BIP or the impact of the student’s behavior on learning.  Remember that at every annual ARD for every student the Committee is required to ask itself if the student engages in behaviors that “impede the learning” of the student or others. If you’re having to use physical restraint, it seems likely that the answer to that question is “yes.” 
  • The regs include details about what has to be included in the documentation that goes to the parent and the folder. I expect you have a form for this.

The main point we make about restraint in the Toolbox Training is that it’s not practical to try to prescribe exactly when and how restraint will be used on an individual student. We don’t recommend including it in a BIP. It’s not a “positive behavior support.” It’s an emergency measure designed to prevent greater harm.  But parents should be well aware that restraint is authorized by Texas law and will be used if necessary.

The feds are going to be looking over your shoulder on this issue, but they shouldn’t have to.  Educators understand that the use of restraint should be rare.  If we find it necessary to physically restrain a student multiple times, that’s a sign that the student is not progressing as we would like.  Keep track.  Call for a meeting if restraint seems to be overly relied upon.


Tomorrow: Title IX student-on-student harassment